Buying a flat in a council owned block - the worst case scenario with maintenance charges?

(37 Posts)
CatAndHisKit Tue 23-Nov-21 23:34:12

Considering a flat, very good layout, location etc, but being put off by scares on MN threads saying that the council can charge huge amount for someting like roof repairs from the private flat owners.
I was, for this reason, only considering very low block, two storey, s that scaffold wouldn't be expensive or eve needed.

This is a 3-storey block with about 15 flats but majority still council owned. Rood has obviously not changed for a wgile and saffold would be definitely needed.
On the plus side, service charges ar very low compared to private - also presumably easier to buy lease extension when needed.
Also it's a quiet, well-run block so that council is 'good'.

I just wanted to hear from anyone who owned / knows about such flats, and what is the absolute worst that council could demand for roof repairs - actual amount? btw this is not London.

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Keyring Tue 23-Nov-21 23:37:36

I have recently had a £9k bill for removal of panelling with asbestos on the outside. However, the service I pay per month is only £60.00 so even though it's a lot, I consider that I might be paying a lot more each month and still have the big bill. This is London. I have a friend who lives a mile away who pays over £300 in service charges.

LittleBearPad Tue 23-Nov-21 23:37:59

It’s not just roofs. They may change all the windows or doors, upgrade various things etc and you’ll have little or no say.

CatAndHisKit Tue 23-Nov-21 23:47:16

Thank you both - but is it really true that private owners aer charged disproprtionately higher than the rest? Is there a rule/law of what is maximum they can charge proportionately, so that it's not completely unfair? I mean in this one windows look quite new - though they don't seem to clean windows in private flats, communal areas wer upgraded, it's mostly the roof that worries me as it's big and a bit mossy and it's three-storey.

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CatAndHisKit Tue 23-Nov-21 23:49:52

Keyring so can you spread hte payments or do they demand it at once? that's quite steep - how many flats aer in the block?

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silentpool Wed 24-Nov-21 01:22:23

There is also a grey area about shared areas like entrance halls etc. When I was a private tenant in a council block, they did zero maintenance on those areas. I'd check that aspect too as it can mean you have to deal with a scruffy, unmaintained area.

Esspee Wed 24-Nov-21 01:51:27

I have found that the council use companies who charge an exorbitant amount for repairs and improvements such as external insulation. The council get grants to cover their share, owners don’t.


WhatAWasteOfOranges Wed 24-Nov-21 07:43:59

How old is the building? What type of construction? Any cladding? Is the fire safety documentation up to date? My friend is currently having a nightmare trying to sell her ex council flat in a v desirable part of London because lenders do not like lending on them at the moment so she’s lost out on two sets of buyers and has had a down valuation to £0 from one lender due to non standard construction on parts of the building, even though she has a mortgage on it from when she bought 5yrs ago. She also has been unable to change to a buy to let mortgage so can’t even rent it out.

I know it’s not directly what your asking but after what she’s been though I would caution anyone thinking of buying one.

Cabinetministers Wed 24-Nov-21 08:08:17

They have to consult with you on any charge over £250 but can just charge you up to £250 for things you would never consider you are responsible for. Over £250 they will stagger payments and for large work like roof they will give you advance notice of planned works. Presumably there is no cladding.

Have fire doors already been installed as they can want £2k per fire door. They can share cost of fire doors between whole block even if you are in a ground floor flat that perhaps doesnt need one. Hence people ended up with bill for £1.5k and didnt actually get a new door as it was a fire safety improvement for the block.

Do you know how many of the 15 flats are privately owned as it it is just one or two the situation is much worse as the social housing tenants will report every minor fault and then you will pay as theirs is mainly paid for them.

Agreee with Esspee the council are paying 4 or 5 times what you would pay if you grouped together and got work done as a group of private tenants.

Kamma89 Wed 24-Nov-21 09:33:53

The problem is, the majority of council blocks are going to require expensive maintenance due to reaching a certain age. Hasn't really been an issue but will increase as the stock gets older. Its not just roof repairs to worry about, cladding, insulation, windows, fire doors (flat entrence & communal), AOV's, fire alarm systems. The requirement for better homes increases every year & leaseholders can't opt out of paying. In London, I would say the discount you get for buying ex council is now not worth it considering potential future bills. Less of an issue in blocks built after the 90s.

daisyphase Wed 24-Nov-21 10:12:44

We got a bill of around £18k back in 2007 ish. That was for roof repairs on an 8 storey block and some other bits. They gave many ways of paying it inc 7 years interest free council loan, having a charge put on your property to be collected when you sell, etc. I guess that bill may have been 7% or so of the value of the flat at the time (London)

CellophaneFlower Wed 24-Nov-21 12:31:23

Is there a lift? I know from experience that these go wrong frequently and can be expensive to fix. I didnt own at the time but heard from people that did that even blocks without use of the lift shared costs of this. When I bought, the council had to supply details of any major works that were due to take place... but obviously this wouldn't include emergencies and I'm not sure how far in the pipeline the major works had to be.

It's a tricky one as it did always play on my mind that I might suddenly receive a huge bill that was going to be hugely inflated and I probably wouldn't get very far trying to dispute it.

doublemonkey Wed 24-Nov-21 17:48:04

I was just going clearing out my paperwork from a flat in a council block I sold in March. Stacks and stacks of paperwork.. and bills.. many, many bills for shit that has nothing to do with you and from which you will not benefit.

You'll be paying for all sorts. If you earn good money and don't mind receiving scammy bills which you will have no choice but to pay then absolutely, buy the flat. But it's cheap for a reason. Caveat Emptor.

CatAndHisKit Wed 24-Nov-21 19:09:42

Ugh doublemonkey, sounds like it's not for me - I don't earn great amounts haha. Was yours a large block though? at least you've sold it with no problens unlike some postrers here.

Thank you all for the info - sadly sounds like I should walk away, shae as the space and privacy is good (privacy actually unparallel as no adjoining neighbours rooms, only downstairs.

To answer various questions, it's a three storey block probably 70s-80s, no lift. Communal parts well looked afetr (hall etc) - and yes there are more council flats than private but mostly older people and only four flats per one entrance, so it's elongated with a few entrances. I do worry that private flats a only a few.

Firedoors already there, and stairs wer recently done (new floor coverings)but as I mentioned they don't clean windows in private ones, which is not great as high up. Main concern isstill the roof which is mossy and for a longer block scaffold will be huge. I wonder whether I can ask the council re planned major works (roof) directly? I obvs don't want to offer and involve solicitors before I'm sure I want it.

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Puffykins Wed 24-Nov-21 19:15:52

You can ask to see the major works schedule before you offer, and you don't need a solicitor to request it. We just sold our ex-council flat and I actually insisted that all viewers were made aware of it before they even saw the flat. The vendors will have it and you can request it through the estate agent.

ComtesseDeSpair Wed 24-Nov-21 19:49:04

I’ve lived in several ex council flats (still own two that I let out) and if I tot up all the bills for each I’ve never paid anything close on average each year to what I pay in general repairs and maintenance since living in a house. And now I live in a house, I also have all the hassle and stress of organising contractors myself.

I’ve also worked in Finance in social housing and no, private owners don’t get charged “more”, except in the sense that they pay whilst tenants don’t. But it’s equally apportioned per flat and you will always be provided with a breakdown which demonstrates that (which you can also ask to have independently scrutinised and challenge if you wish to.)

JimJamJolly Wed 24-Nov-21 20:27:10

I bought an ex-council flat about 20 years ago - block of 6 flats over 3 floors. Cant remember how much maintenance charge i paid each month, but it was very reasonable (East Midlands). The first year i lived there they put in a security entry system, the next year they replaced all my windows, and the last year they put some pretty fencing round the block. I never paid extra to cover these costs. Waa nice to feel i did actually benefit from that the money that i paid out each month

BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz Wed 24-Nov-21 20:32:15

The good thing with a council leasehold management company is they will be heavily regulated and audited each year on this. They have to evidence that only a due proportion is passed on to the owners in the block. So if they pay 100k to put a new roof on their block, and there are 100 properties in the block, they absoloutley cannot pass on more than £1k to you for it. And they wont expect it in one go.

They also collect within their service charges "depreciation/sinking fund" so each year/month you will pay a small element of it if towards future roof replacements.

Major works do need to be consulted on too.

heymammy Wed 24-Nov-21 20:47:12

Honestly I wouldn't consider any block where the council hold the majority vote, in reality it means they can push through any work they want as your vote effectively doesn't count.

They also award contracts to their mates so repair costs are higher than usual. Disclaimer - I have nothing to back this statement up but we all know it's true wink

Keyring Wed 24-Nov-21 21:31:45


Keyring so can you spread hte payments or do they demand it at once? that's quite steep - how many flats aer in the block?

I can spread the payments over 3 years. So that helps. It's all a function of blocks being checked in light of Grenfell. Although no similar cladding was found in my case, they felt there was a risk that asbestos lurked so they've taken all the panelling off and replaced them.

earsup Wed 24-Nov-21 22:20:16

my friend has one...was told when he bought it, by council officer, that the council dont like people who buy them...labour council....paid 10k for lift....5k for new windows but he didnt need or want them....3k for a new front door to meet new fire regs...nothing wrong with old door as only 2 years old....some councils will do lots of extra work and charge you....others...usually tory won't...proceed with caution...!!..check if the 5 year cycle of works has been done or any proposals....

Kamma89 Wed 24-Nov-21 22:26:36

I do think a lot of the "in my experience/time charges have been fine" crew are not taking into account aging stock & the new building safety bill & fire safety bill that will require far more expensive "stuff (technical term) which will require more expensive maintenance & replacement. Fire doors considered compliant 3 years ago are now not, as an example.

CatAndHisKit Thu 25-Nov-21 00:53:21

earsup haha how about Lib Dems? Just looked up and that's what the area councillors are.

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halloweenie13 Thu 25-Nov-21 03:45:34

Where I previously lived in London we had residents take the council to court from what we were told because they did cladding and roofing work and it was going on well over a year, they tried to bill them for astronomical prices.

halloweenie13 Thu 25-Nov-21 03:46:32

just to add it was only 4 floors probably around 30 flats in the block

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